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Risky Business

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The recent report entitled “Reading at Risk” revealed that, for the first time in modern history, less than half of the adult population of the United States reads literature – a trend that reflects a decline in other sorts of reading as well. The study, by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), pointed out that these trends don’t merely signify lower profits for Amazon.com.

Common Cents

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The first time I visited Portland, Ore., some 12 years ago, I knew it was a cutting-edge kind of place. On the airport bus going into the city, I spotted an establishment called Motor Mocha – a drive-through espresso bar. Bear in mind that this was years before every street corner in America sported a Starbucks. I realized immediately that ingenuity was flourishing in the Pacific Northwest.

Random Assignment

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I have just finished reading a new book about young people that should be required reading for youth workers, teachers and, most especially, policy-makers. Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx, chronicles the fast-paced and heart-wrenching stories of a group of children and youth from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. Journalist Adrian Nicole LeBlanc spent the better part of a decade in their South Bronx neighborhood, seeking to understand their joys and struggles.

A Winning Formula For Staff Effectiveness

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As youth work practitioners, most of us have long believed that effective programs depend in large measure on the availability of competent, caring staff.

Applied Economics

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When I enrolled in a graduate school of social work many years ago, I found myself to be a distinct outsider – the only person in my class of 200 who had majored in economics as an undergraduate. While I’d been studying macroeconomics in my senior year, my fellow students had been learning about human development as psychology majors, or about social problems as sociology majors.

Summertime: Is the Living Too Easy?

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Many of the young people that youth agencies serve are about to lose a lot of what they’ve spent the past nine months learning. Research indicates that all young people experience significant learning losses during the summer break from school, and that the magnitude of these declines varies by grade level, subject matter and family income.

Give P’s a Chance

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Despite several glaring problems, the recent Mathematica Policy Research study reporting first-year findings from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program contains some important lessons for after-school and youth development practitioners.

Of Men and Mice

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Here’s a story from the friendly skies. One day last summer, on a flight from Atlanta to New York, I came across the following three newspaper headlines:

“Teenage Drug Use at an 8-Year Low.”

“Student Privacy Just a Specimen for Profit, Politics.”

“Brains of Mice Enlarged.”

Confessions of a Youth Worker

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Many years ago I attended a dinner party at which the conversation turned to the question, "Has a book ever changed your life?" What ensued was a raucous and engaging discussion that ranged from Doris Lessing to Hermann Hesse to Michael Harrington (my contribution at the time). The question has continued to intrigue me, both professionally and personally. As a youth worker, I have read voraciously - but seldom with that elusive payoff my friends and I described.

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